Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sen. Nelson to meet with Griffin about Shuttle Extension

From Florida Today here:
The reluctance of Congress to do business with the increasingly aggressive Russian government could force NASA to continue shuttle flights past 2010, which might reduce or delay job losses at Kennedy Space Center.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, will meet Tuesday with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to discuss the feasibility of continuing shuttle flights beyond the scheduled end of the program in 2010.

The Bush administration had proposed a five-year gap, during which the United States would rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for access to the $100 billion International Space Station.

However, the Russian invasion of neighboring Georgia soured many lawmakers on paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the former Cold War adversary.

"We finally got a dose of reality," Nelson said. "We're going to suffer for it because we may not have access to our own space station."

Lawmakers aren't likely to extend an exemption of the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-Proliferation Act -- known as INKSNA -- which would allow NASA to buy flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The exemption must be passed by early 2009 to allow time to build a Soyuz spacecraft by 2011.

"I think we can get it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but I'm not sure we can pass it," said Nelson, who plans, nevertheless, to push for the exemption.

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